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Carolers make way through town

December 22, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Though somewhat small in number, some churchgoing carolers were able to block out the noise of the city and the chilly December wind as they sang their way through downtown Sunday night.

For the seventh time in as many years, members of Christ's Reformed Church and Ebenezer AME Church came together for the Community Caroling Downtown Walk. The one-mile, five-stop trek featured about 20 members who read along with religious passages and sang many of time's most celebrated Christmas carols.

The two congregations have kept the tradition of pre-Christmas caroling since 1997. The Rev. Don Stevenson, pastor of Christ's Reformed Church on West Franklin Street, said the two congregations began holding joint events after members of Ebenezer AME Church temporarily used the Christ's Reformed Church facilities for services while their building was unusable in the late 1990s.

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The Rev. Peter Brown, assistant pastor at Ebenezer AME Church, said he has only missed one of the carol walks since 1997.

"What brings me out every year - to share the love and see the people who have fallen down," Brown said. "Hopefully, we can lift them up with a song and a prayer."

As they approached stop one, Walnut Towers, at 5:15 p.m., the carolers warmed up their vocal cords while trying to forget they were shivering in the stiffening breeze.

Several residents from each of the South Walnut Street buildings came to the lobby to hear the songs, such as "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Several of the singers said it is their favorite stop of the year.

"I like doing it in front of people, but that's difficult sometimes (to get people together)," Christ's Reformed Church member Ron Shirey said. "You see the joy on their faces, and they join in."

Just after 5:40 p.m., the group found its way to the steps of Washington County District Court. And though there were few passers-by to see the traveling choir, it didn't stop the members from belting out every note.

Approximately 10 minutes later, the group arrived at Alexander House on East Washington Street to sing for more older city residents. Stevenson said walking through Public Square singing is one of his favorite parts of the jaunt each year.

"It's great to see cars coming by and stopping. It's a thing we've always enjoyed," Stevenson said. "It's saying, here are two racially different groups coming together in our community."

While some waved at passing drivers and peeking apartment residents, others passed the time from stop to stop with a spontaneous soccer game involving a soda can.

At 6 p.m., the steps of City Hall were the venue for the singers. Stevenson led the prayer at City Hall saying, "As we hear the noise of our city, let us pray for it ..." And though the prayer was barely audible over the car engines and bass-thumping stereo systems in the area, the singing was more than loud enough to drown out the surrounding noise.

By 6:15 p.m., the group was rounding the home stretch, singing its last couple of songs, including "Silent Night," in front of Ebenezer AME Church on West Bethel Street.

Ebenezer member Dottie Bell said she enjoyed her first chance to join the group in the caroling festivities.

"I just felt like I need to do something," Bell said. "It's been a lot of fun. I'd do it again."

Christ's Reformed Church member Gary Graves said he comes out every year because it is more fun and relaxing than the everyday holiday season routine.

"It's a nice breakout from all the business of the year," Graves said. "It's a chance to reflect on what it's all about."

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